Let’s be honest, it wasn’t ideal having mental health issues under the previous government, but now the Tories are in power, their proposed austerity cuts to services and benefits have understandably caused shock-waves and concern for sufferers.
The problem is, having a mental illness means you already feel vulnerable and dis-empowered. To know that the struggles you already face are only going to get more difficult is a slap in the face from the Conservatives.
I’ve needed more than my fair share of interventions and benefits over the years and my mental health CV boasts an impressive selection of services used.
All of this has had a huge positive impact. The help I’ve received has not only kept me alive but in the case of some therapies, changed my life. I’d even go as far as saying my mind is in good order now. But what if I need help in the future? What about the other one in four people that are still affected by mental health issues, or who are only just seeking help for the first time?
It’s ironic that these cuts to services coincide with a rise in mental health awareness campaigns such as Rethink’s ‘Time To Change’ and a growing number of celebrities coming forward to urge us that being open about mental illness is a positive thing.
Will it do any good to speak up about mental health if the Tories have taken their financial cleaver and butchered support services and benefits?
I think it will and it’s important to remember there’s still much that you can do to take back power and feel you have some control over the situation. It’s time to stop circulating that photo of David Cameron wearing a Thatcher wig on Facebook and think about what we can actually do to create change.
The first thing to bear in mind is that you always have a voice and it is your most powerful weapon, no matter how much it may feel as though your needs have been silenced. It is so important to speak up and talk about mental health and the struggles you face, not least to fight the stigma which surrounds the subject. Secondly, you always have the choice to fight back against any decisions or actions taken against you.
It can be difficult to fight from a position of illness and disability but as a group collective voice, more can be achieved than going it alone. Plus, it’s easier. That doesn’t mean to say you shouldn’t write to your M.P, sign petitions and campaign individually if you are able to, but getting your opinions heard on a grand scale involves aligning yourself with as many powerful organisations, groups and people as possible and letting them do the talking with you and for you.
Being aware of and getting involved in the work of the leading mental health organisations and charities is crucial. I’m closely following MIND, SANE and Rethink, all of whom provide advice, information and support on all aspects of mental health as well as helping you to feel you’re not alone. Although they shouldn’t become a substitute for individual specialised help, they are somewhere to turn in the meantime.
Noticing which key public figures and celebrities are supporting mental health causes is also a great way to ‘piggy back’ your voice into a wider arena; let them know via Twitter, Facebook page or even old-fashioned email or letter that you support the work they are doing.
Or you could always go straight to the top and tweet David Cameron some suggestions for change. Without getting too troll-y, it might give him something to read over his morning coffee, although I’m guessing he will be too busy decimating the NHS to reply.
Find other people who are in the same position as you, through community or online forums and support groups. Information and knowledge shared is power. There are some excellent Facebook groups such as Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) which offer advice and support to anyone affected by austerity cuts, also the non-profit group Fightback4Justice.co.uk offers advice on benefits and will help you to fill in those designed-to-catch-you-out forms. Don’t forget, there are also national organisations such as Disability Rights UK and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, both of which offer free advice and support.
You could also start your own petition, write a blog or create a group to keep abreast of Tory developments and discuss ideas with a community of like-minded people. There are lots of anti-austerity protests happening around the country too, if you are well enough to turn up and wave a placard.
The one thing you shouldn’t do is keep quiet or accept decisions made against you at face value.
Because that’s what the Tories want.
P.S I tweeted David Cameron but he hasn’t replied.
@David_Cameron Please could you stop making cuts to mental health services and benefits? Thanks!
*This piece has also been published in the Huffington Post UK and as soon as I work out how to do hyperlinks, I will be sure to hyperlink it. In the meantime, here is a regular style link –